The Snowy Mountains transforms into a cyclist’s dream in Summer, when the L’Étape Australia, organised by the Tour de France, showcases the spectacular region. Riders can test their mettle over distances of either the Race (157 km) or the Ride (126 km) in a single day.
The roads are closed to traffic, the climbs are brutal, the yellow, green, Polka-Dot and white jerseys are up for grabs, and yes, Chris Froome will be riding too! For those just looking to finish the challenge, there’ll be feed zones and plenty of other riders to help you along.
With the event set to happen on Saturday the 3rd December 2016, we wanted to answer the commonly asked questions of where to stay, how to get there, what to eat and what the family can do while you’re out railing those alpine roads.
How to Get There
Situated near the Southwest border of New South Wales, the Snowy Mountains are a two and half hour drive from Canberra, five and half hours from Sydney, and a seven hour drive from Melbourne.
If you prefer to fly, Regional Express (REX) fly year-round from Sydney to the Snowy Mountains Airport located in nearby Cooma. The checked baggage allowance of 15 kg means you’ll need to pack your bike carefully. Alternatively, major flights (including from Singapore and Wellington) land at Canberra Airport, with plenty of hire car options to get you into the mountains.
It is possible to get around without a car, but you’ll surely enjoy yourself more with seeing the sights if you have your own transport.
Where to Stay
With the L’Étape Australia race starting in Crackenback, there are a variety of accommodation options close from campgrounds through to five-star luxury accommodation. Below are a few specific options to consider. Stay close by at Crackenback, Perisher or Thredbo, or a short drive away at Jindabyne, Cooma, Berridale or Dalgety.
Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa
Sitting within the Thredbo Valley on the border of the Kosciuszko National Park, Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa offers a peaceful 150-acre hidden oasis of surrounding natural bushland. The resort offers self-contained Lake View apartments and Mountain View chalets. It also boasts two dining establishments; Cuisine and Alpine Larder. There’s even a day spa with massage (and beauty) to fix those aches after racing. The ski-village of Thredbo is a short 15-minute drive along the Alpine Way, but more importantly, you’ll be staying right where the race starts and finishes.
Offering a relaxed, rustic feel, Moonbah Hut is located in the picturesque Moonbah Valley, 15-minutes drive from Jindabyne. The Moonbah Lake Hut is situated on a small private lake that holds Brown, Rainbow and Brook Trout, perfect for those who enjoy fly-fishing.
The Denman Hotel
Placed within the heart of Thredbo Village, the Denman Hotel is Thredbo’s finest accommodation. This boutique hotel offers 36 well-appointed, cosy rooms. Dine in the Terrace restaurant, refresh with the historic Apres Bar and soak in the views of the mountain that you just conquered.
Placed within Perisher Valley, Eiger Chalet is a small, family owned and operated, boutique style German/Austrian influenced Ski Chalet. Given the ski tube will be running from Perisher to the race start and finish in Crackenback, this is a convenient place to stay.
Places to Eat and Drink
A classic wholesome Aussie pub meal with local beer and cold-climate wines can be found at the Lake Jindabyne Hotel. Locally made beers can also be found at the Kosciuszko Brewery at the Banjo Paterson Inn, Jindabyne. Further along the Alpine Way on the way to Thredbo, Wildbrumby Schnapps Distillery offer schnapps tasting on site made from locally grown fruit. If you enjoy fine dining, then visit Cuisine at Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa. Within the same valley, another fresh and delicious meal can be found at the Crackenback Restaurant and Farmhouse. On the way back to Sydney / Canberra reward yourself with a treat and stop at Macenmist Black Truffles and Wine in Bredbo for some black truffles and local Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay wines.
Other Things to Do
Image supplied by Perisher
Taking the family or making a long weekend of it? In addition to the excellent road cycling in the region, there’s plenty to do.
The most popular activity is to hike to the summit of Australia’s highest peak, Mt Kosciuszko. With a peak of 2228 m, it leads you to breathtaking views of the region. In case the race got the better of your legs, the scenic chairlift runs 365 days a year, which provides a 2 km shortcut to the top. Weather can change quickly up the mountain, so be sure to take a warm jacket and some water.
While you’ll want to save your legs for the main event, any spare energy can be spent tackling the slopes on a mountain bike. Hire equipment and lessons are available for first timers at Thredbo Village, with near endless trail options. There’s plenty of easy rides perfect for the whole family too, including the cycle track that runs around Thredbo Village.
Other family friendly activities include the 700 m bobsled track at Thredbo Village, rock climbing and abseiling in Kosciuszko National Park, a scenic helicopter ride, fly-fishing in the crystal clear rivers and creeks, tour through the Yarragonbilly Caves or a visit to the Snowy Hydro Discovery centre in Cooma to learn about the Snowy Mountains Power Scheme.
Cover image supplied by Tim Bardsley-Smith @ tbsphotography.com.au. Images supplied by Destination NSW unless otherwise stated.
Disclaimer: Staff of BikeExchane Australia wrote this content with help from Destination New South Wales.